Volume Two, Issue 4

Naomie Jean-Pierre

Ode to RalphAngel

RalphAngel, why don't you scream? / I would much rather you scream / I would much more rather/ hear your tight lip utter something unlike my brother / I would rather hear more likely than not / something unlike the silent cries of only brothers in families of only sisters / holding on tightly to cords /of strangling masculinity / much less a deferred heart’s sickness / I would prefer to liken you rather to a dream I had / when I was five / of a man calming a woman down from jumping / two feet / from the bathtub rim to the floor / and my father looked rather like unlike you / it was my mother / actually my mother rather unlikely in all likelihood / resembled you / and that is where we got the look / and I suppose perhaps in all likelihood / rather less likely / that is where only brothers of all sisters learn it / the look, much less, the scream/ from women who watch fathers die / from sisters who watch / rather / dignified brothers die / rather clearly televised/ on asphalt / clenching their stomach / stomaching the life we have to do alone / letting it unravel / for a third generation // now what would be the high / albeit unlikely / likelihood of that?


here is the key/ to living mothers / she who screams lives /
he who wants to live must open his mouth /
that I had never heard them men scream / is proof. /
that you look like a man who is ready to part tight lips /
and let out a cry / that would raise the dead                  /  is a cycle
                                                                                  broken /
/ an undoing /
/ of curses.

Up With the Earth

and on the seventh day there was laughter...where peace was published...and the paper was our bodies... when we were not ashamed...where we reaped and sowed between two trees...and cried out what we now know was worship...and breathed out pants that settled what we know now as oceans...then when we influenced the tide.

and on the eighth day there was a conclave of those existing outside...those exiting the shade of the tree of life...those who make music with their bodies...but sing only broken melodies...that we now know as dreams...a symphony for when the earth still speaks...like someone trying to forget...and keep...a thing they love... from leaving.

and on the days we shall number no more...there you were...inside and outside… eternity...choosing beneath you...and you refused to call it settling...that thing which compelled you to undress...your glory and wear skin...like a thing about to be carved...about to be shaved...and mounted...and hooked...and cooked for the eating...and you refused to call it settling and we would later know this was love...what we only knew then as folly.

and it was up with the earth...from then on...a rising because we choose her...even when we are denied her...we choose a birthright we sold...for a few magic beans...and fig leaves...and the next time we tend her gardens...may it be skywards...may it be an ethereal agriculture...up with the earth...when the season is right.

Exit Wounds

there are anchors that keep us here...or we would surely float away...and I understand now why they slept for sorrow...because for the first few days we knew no curse but the absence...of good measure pouring out ceaselessly...and toes on an earth that no longer responds as we walk...no longer does it sing: here you are...i am here too...we are kindred dust you and i...the future of the dust on the earth is looking forward to you... you, who is what is up with the earth...cannot hear like you used to.// but it does make the sound...of closing...swinging doors...I cannot walk through...in an earth perpetually ripped… a side opened...exposing the softest rib...or the absence thereof.

A Short History of Scars ii

for transient brothers, fathers, and would be lovers

the / men I have loved in the past / I have loved hard because they were parting / those men only had three to five months / of my time before i realized that they were fleeting / my subconscious is attracted to men who are interim / ephemeral breaths in the passage of valleys / a ceremony of names chorusing through narrow passages / of teeth / expleting grief over their short refrains

// because had I known a man longer / I would sow myself to him / a pair of blue and red vines / that go out in search of pulses / I will know you by your scent / hard onion layers / how did I know / how dare I know that / none of you would return / not because you did not want to / but because you did not know the way back

/// and so I saved your tracks/ on my person / and the briefest history of scars / are those that are coursing down my arms / and severed / and reaching / all the way back to my asthmatic father / my eldest brother / the choruses of men gone / subaltern / their veins they would be longer / somewhat traceable/ had they not hung / out / to their nowhere / to their never reconciled endings / having to lean towards the warmth of the other suns.

Open Palms

for Jayden

/ because the truth is / earth does speak / and she says I am a mother / and you are worthy of mothering / and though my breasts are not giving milk / and my womb has not borne / you are hungry / and my body knows what to do / even if my mind does not (denies you) / and my palms shall not recall how to clench / and my rights to my body will be unlearned / because you are allowed to make me uncomfortable / you are allowed to cry out for hunger / you are allowed to demand my hands to be available for your feeding / and I cannot unhear the cries/ because I am here / and I am yours, too / and we are each others / new thing in an old land / you are my reminder / when I want to deny it / that there is something in my hand / that belongs to you / and to walk my world / our world / with open palms / is to surrender / it is to weep what salt is to saltiness / but please please do not shoot / i am only flesh and blood / and I cannot remember why I am dying to self / but I would like to think it was the sound of my motherhood awakening to sound of your boyhood dying / .

an emptying

begins in memories on a train
you thought was going somewhere other than ruin.
it makes many stops; few depart
               fewer return.
carts topple.
they cycle
               absent men who remind you of your father
                              and the shakey women who grieve them.
               men who come with blank bits of paper
                              who name you pleasant things &
                              then bruise you
                              send you hurling into the land of tidelessness
here is a buck
               for every time you owed me nothing
here is a back        breaking terrain
an endless ambiguity
a servile guile
a renunciated truth on only begotten tongue.
here is a pill
to swallow
for the two daughters I may never bear
               who may never come from my womb
to the daughters prophesied to me
               I say, do not come to me surrogated
               wearing my crown on your heads
               bearing flowers like mine
but come alive.
               break forth into the speaking world.
               travel beyond my dreams.
               grow old.
brown are the flowers and brittle is the palm at my ankles
scratching me like a cat in a dream
               let me tell you
we can be new
we can be alive
               but bury us. this is fleeting
sunrise in a bottle
washing up on my long awaited shores
this is an emptying; this is a fire out of air
gasping; these are the collected bones forced to form
a body perpetually torn

a teacake / the apologetics for violence (i)

               after the flood
we be having to shoot our men dead
               like dogs: see Janie go
because they’ve been bitten by a bad virus
rabid, like the world trying to devour us
               For this I do lament, I do say a sorry
for putting you down
               before you could squeeze the life blood of my neck between your teeth
               before you could bite down,
               finishing me forever
a finality: this is
               not your average piece of tea cake
               not a vengeful God
               not a raging flood
               not rocket science
it was me
               and it was intentional
                              and it felt good
                                             and it was survival
                                                            it was a training
                                                                           and I’d do it again.

we be having to shoot our men dead
after the flood
a         m e r c y
               I am sorry I had to write this.
               at least it was by my hand
               and at least
               I suffer, too
               do not share
               this. Do
               not do it
do          not
do          not
it/for staying alive
for choosing to live
you are not
to say a sorry

a teacake / the apologetics for violence (ii)

we be like        casualties
under the growl of guns
unsuspectingly shooting back
if I could do this without doing this I would
               take this cup from me, Lord
but I sip to you.
for saying goodbye
               to wrong allbethem good men
you are not to be beg you are not to cry you are not to plea or bargain you are not to
petition for sorries
you are to choose yourself
you are to bind the sum of self-worth you have
to your heart
and then, you are to shoot
you are to wave goodbye forever
bending into that wave of sorrow next time
you are to be the wind            that got away
relentless forever in pursual and pursuit
learning from God
that He is meek and He is humble
               but He is also a deliverer
at heart

After Their Eyes Were Watching God

from apologetics for eve

a recognition

to future Adams,
we who will not know the other by name
we who
walk on two legs
with one head
               tilted at the other
we who look with two eyes
               hoping for more than oscillation
hold out ten fingers to grasp this
not by flesh
nor by title
but by singleness
by compatibility of journeys past
bone carved
               swinging forth from
dreams slept and ribs sacrificed
we are alike because we are the only ones
with each other
because we made it to the center of this waiting earth
this hidden Eden blooming
at last
a resonance      unique in all creation

To you, all I ask is this
do not simply call me woman
but call me by my name

Naomie Jean-Pierre: "I am an MA literature candidate at City College of New York. I hail from Haiti by way of Atlanta. By day, I tutor high schoolers at Countee Cullen library of Central Harlem. By night, I versify the raw material of daily life."

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